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Contract Enforcement and Institutions among the Maghribi Traders: Refuting Edwards and Ogilvie

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  • Avner Greif

    () (Stanford University)

Abstract

Edwards and Ogilvie dispute the empirical basis of the view that a multilateral reputation mechanism mitigated agency problems among the eleventh-century Maghribi traders. They allege that the relations among merchants and agents were founded in law. This paper refutes this assertion using comprehensive quantitative analyses of all available primary sources and a careful review of the documents and the literature Edwards and Ogilvie cite. Among recent new quantitative findings reported: (1) less than one percent of the documents’ content is devoted to legal activity on any matter. (2) The legal system was mainly used for mandatory, non-trade related matters. (3) The documents reflect thousands of agency relations but there are less than six court documents possibly reflecting its use in agency disputes. (4) A ten percent random sample of all the documents finds no trade-related legal actions among Maghribis beyond those in the court documents. (5) About 75 percent of agency relations were not based on a legal contract. The paper also reaffirms the accuracy of Greif’s documentary examples and sheds light on the roles of the legal system and reputation mechanism during this period.

Suggested Citation

  • Avner Greif, 2008. "Contract Enforcement and Institutions among the Maghribi Traders: Refuting Edwards and Ogilvie," Discussion Papers 08-018, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:sip:dpaper:08-018
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    File URL: http://www-siepr.stanford.edu/repec/sip/08-018.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Greif, Avner, 1989. "Reputation and Coalitions in Medieval Trade: Evidence on the Maghribi Traders," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 49(04), pages 857-882, December.
    2. Jeremy Edwards & Sheilagh Ogilvie, 2012. "Contract enforcement, institutions, and social capital: the Maghribi traders reappraised," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 65(2), pages 421-444, May.
    3. Greif, Avner, 1994. "Cultural Beliefs and the Organization of Society: A Historical and Theoretical Reflection on Collectivist and Individualist Societies," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(5), pages 912-950, October.
    4. Clay, Karen, 1997. "Trade without Law: Private-Order Institutions in Mexican California," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 13(1), pages 202-231, April.
    5. Reyerson, Kathryn, 2006. "Institutions and the Path to the Modern Economy: Lessons from Medieval Trade. By Avner Greif. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. Pp. xix, 503. $34.99, paper," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 66(04), pages 1080-1081, December.
    6. Greif, Avner, 1993. "Contract Enforceability and Economic Institutions in Early Trade: the Maghribi Traders' Coalition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(3), pages 525-548, June.
    7. Greif, Avner, 1996. "The Study of Organizations and Evolving Organizational Forms through History: Reflections from the Late Medieval Family Firm," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 5(2), pages 473-501.
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    Cited by:

    1. Veronica Coca, 2010. "The Impact of Rules on Economic Activity," Studies and Scientific Researches. Economics Edition, "Vasile Alecsandri" University of Bacau, Faculty of Economic Sciences, issue 15.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    multilateral reputation mechanism; Maghribi traders; Edwards and Ogilvie;

    JEL classification:

    • B11 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought through 1925 - - - Preclassical (Ancient, Medieval, Mercantilist, Physiocratic)

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